Richard Carew (Dickie) REYNELL

REYNELL, Richard Carew

Service Number: 32091
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 43 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Reynella, South Australia, 12 August 1912
Home Town: Reynella, Onkaparinga, South Australia
Schooling: St Peter's College, Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Air force pilot
Died: Killed In Action, Surrey, England, 7 September 1940, aged 28 years
Cemetery: Brookwood Military Cemetery, Pirbright, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Grave 202417.
Memorials: Greenwich Flt. Lieutenant Reynell Memorial, Hackney St Peter's College WW2 Honour Roll
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World War 2 Service

4 Sep 1939: Involvement Royal Air Force , Flight Lieutenant, 32091, No. 43 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45,

No. 43 Squadron (RAF)

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Richard Carew REYNELL, Battle of Britain pilot (1912-1940)

Richard Reynell was one of a significant number of Australians serving in the RAF when the war broke out in September 1939.  Many other Australians had initially enlisted in the RAAF and been offered short service commissions in the RAF. However Richard Reynell charted a different course,

He was born into the Reynell family of winemakers after whom the Adelaide town of Reynella was named.  His father, Carew Reynell (/explore/people/231435), was an officer in the Militia prior to WW1 and served in Gallipoli with the 9th Light Horse Regiment.  He assumed command of the Regimment after his predecessor had been killed in early August.  Carew himself was to be killed leading the unit at the ill-starred Battle for Hill 60 on 28 August 1915.

Richard grew up without his father and studied at Adelaide's St Peters Collegiate School, before travelling to England in 1929 where he passed the Oxford University entrance examination to read Agriculture at Balliol College.

Reynell joined the University Air Squadron and was commissioned in the RAF Reserve in March 1931.  He relinquished this on being granted a short service commission in the RAF in September 1931. On the 28th September Reynell was posted to No. 5 Flying Training School Sealand and with his training completed he joined No. 43 Squadron at Tangmere on 8th March 1932.

He flew one of three Hawker Furies of the squadron which performed at the International Air Meeting at Brussels on 11th June 1933.  It was here that he attracted the attention of the Hawker Aircraft Company.  Reynell went to the Station Flight at RAF Duxford on 6th December 1934 and then joined the instructing staff at 8 Flying Training School Montrose on 4th May 1936.

He went on to the RAF Reserve list on 15th January 1937. After a visit to Australia, Reynell returned to Britain and became a test pilot at the Hawker Aircraft Company.

He soon established a reputation as an outstanding pilot, putting the new Hawker Hurricane through its paces at another Brussels Airshow.

He met and married Marjorie Watts-Allan, their engagement being announced in June 1938. The married on the 24th September 1938.

An account appeared in the Press, of Richard's exploits at the controls of a Hurricane.

By some strange means Flight Lieut Reynell and a Hawker Hurricane were interpolated into the programme and the sky while Wellington bombers were still on parade. He did everything with the machine which a Hurricane could reasonably be expected to do, and then some more. With all due respect to all the other brilliant aerobats of the afternoon,there is no doubt that Reynell stole the show.

"Hardened Belgian pilots on the balcony of the Brussels Flying Club danced with joy when they saw him doing those vertical climbs, slowly revolving on his longitudinal axis.

"Much alarm was caused when,during the long, straight dive with which Reynell begins these rocket-like upward flights, flames were seen to be issuing apparently from the cowling and licking along the side ofthe machine. People shouted: 'II pritfeu!' (it is on fire) but the machine went on.

"I afterward learned the flames were caused by an accumulation of super-rich mixture shooting out of the exhaust ports in a long flame.''

Flying for Hawker while the Phoney War and later the Battle of France unfolded, it was deemed that it would be useful if "Dickie" Reynell was attached to No 43 Squadron RAF (his former unit) for operational experience  to evaluate the Hurricane in combat.  He joined them at RAF Tangmere on 26 August 1940.

He was appointed as a Flight Leader with No. 43 Squadron at the height of the Battle of Britain.  He was flying a Hawker Hurricane as one of the most experienced pilots on the type and he claimed a Messerschmitt BF109 destroyed on 2 September and a number of 'probables'.  On the 7th September, he was recalled by Hawker after another of their Test Pilots was killed but Dickie Reynell elected to complete the day's flying.   The 7th September marked a shift in strategy as the Luftwaffe shifted its focus from RAF airfields and factories, and raided London in force.  No. 43 Squadron flew into action in a protracted engagement all the way from the coast, against more than 100 enemy aircraft.  The 28-year-old Australian's Hurricane was seen to break up over Greenwhich.  Reynell may have bailed out, almost certainly wounded, and his parachute did not open.   He survived briefly on the ground but died soon after from grave injuries. 

This account recently, published in the UK, by researcher Andrew Rennie, who is compiling a book on Richard Reynell, concludes;

Richard attacked the bombers with his Squadron Leader all the way from Beachy Head (on the coast..Ed)  to London. At approximately 5.00 PM he was shot down over Greenwich. Dickie Reynell did not bail out but was blown out of his Hurricane. The Hurricane (Mk 1 FT-F V7257) itself was blown into three pieces with the engine going through the roof of St Ursula’s Convent which set the building on fire.

His obituary read

FLt.-Lieut. Reynell was born at Reynella (Morphett Vale South Australia) on January 9, 1912. His father was killed in action at Gallipoli on August 28, 1915. while commanding the 9th Light Horse Regiment.

He obtained short-service commission in the R.A.F. in 1930, transferring from Oxford University Air Squadron. He was transferred to the R.A.F.Reserve in 1936, and was then employed by Hawker Aircraft Company.  He leaves a widow and a son aged 15 months

His son John tragically died in a helicopter accident in 1973.


Compiled by Steve Larkins 2016


"Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell – The Greenwich Phantom". (/admin/biographies/7834/ Retrieved 12 September 2020.